Rolling Meadows council signals support for video gambling

  • After rejecting video gambling in 2014 and 2016, the Rolling Meadows City Council appears ready to reverse course and allow gambling machines in restaurants and bars. A final vote is expected April 24.

      After rejecting video gambling in 2014 and 2016, the Rolling Meadows City Council appears ready to reverse course and allow gambling machines in restaurants and bars. A final vote is expected April 24. Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2014

 
 
Updated 4/11/2018 6:24 PM

Rolling Meadows may soon join Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Wheeling and Prospect Heights as one of the Northwest suburban towns that allows video gambling at bars, restaurants and other establishments.

A proposed ordinance to permit the gambling machines earned the support of five of Rolling Meadows' seven aldermen this week -- a shift from previous city councils' rejection of video gambling in 2014 and 2016. The makeup of the council has changed, and one alderman even said she's changed her mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Supporters, including local business owners and Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce officials, say the machines could provide a much-needed economic stimulus, help fill vacancies in strip malls and provide an additional revenue source for city coffers.

Opponents have questioned whether video gambling actually provides a significant amount of revenue.

Vince Bufalino, owner of Stadium Sports Club & Pizza and the Meadow Square Shopping Center, encouraged aldermen Tuesday to allow gambling machines, in an effort to remain competitive with establishments in other towns.

"The economic climate for retail space is a very difficult one," said Bufalino, who has run Stadium for more than 30 years. "I am at a disadvantage with the many towns that allow video gaming and need to have a more level playing field in order for my business to survive and for the shopping center to remain viable."

In a first-reading vote Tuesday, Aldermen Tim Veenbaas and Robert Banger Jr. voted against the ordinance, though they didn't discuss their opposition. During a 2016 council meeting, Banger said he liked the "pride" of being in a small town with strong family values and didn't want video gambling to change that.

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Alderman Laura Majikes, initially opposed to the idea, said during a committee meeting in February she's changed her position and "times have changed."

Alderman Nick Budmats proposed an amendment that video gambling be permitted strictly in establishments that serve food, but only Veenbaas supported that proposal.

Neighboring communities like Schaumburg, Palatine, Inverness and Arlington Heights don't allow video gambling.

Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village currently each have 22 locations with 105 video gambling machines, the former receiving $377,784 in video gambling receipts between February 2017 and February 2018, and the latter getting $363,549, according to Illinois Gaming Board records.

Five percent of net revenue goes to a municipality and 25 percent to the state, with the terminal operator and licensed establishment splitting the remainder.

The Rolling Meadows council is expected to take a final vote April 24.

• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.

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